Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

I know I told you that I wasn't going to be posting much, but I think this kind of fits into the "too much time" category.  Sorry!  Lots to tell you about, so, here goes.

First, see that little badge thingy over to the right?  Some group voted my blog as one of the top 50 breast cancer blogs on the internet.  Yikes!  They must be hard up if they think my ramblings are "badge worthy".  Giggle.

Tuesday, I saw my oncologist, Dr. Nakajima, who told me that he was "more than pleased" with all my test results.  Like I told you before, I've been proclaimed cancer free.  Now, I just have to keep it this way for 5 years. 

I'm scheduled to have a CAT & bone scan March 1st.  Have you ever had a CAT scan?  You have to drink this thick, chalky crap that's really awful.  And I don't know if it was for the CAT scan or the bone scan, but I can't eat after 9:00 am.  Soooo, when the nurse gave me the two massive bottles of horrid liquid to drink, I reminded her – I'm fasting, so obviously, I can't drink the chalk.  She didn't buy it – curses! 

But, if drinking an unpleasant liquid will give Dr. Nakajima insight into my cancer free innerds, well, then, bring on the chalk!  Hey, I survived breast cancer; a little chalk is nothing for me!

Guess what else?  My dumb column has been picked up by a new AOL backed online newspaper,  I wrote about not giving Martha Stewart a run for her money any time soon.  You can read the silly article here.  My next column just came out called "Following the Pink Rainbow".  I shared what it was like to have two little girls who worshipped at the altar of Barbie for Christmas.  Next up, dealing with Boy - & action figures, GI Joes, & walking, talking, motion sensitive robots.  I actually had my ankle attacked by one of his little "friends", while it screamed, "intruder alert, intruder alert".  I'll probably use that in my column.  I'm so lame.

I also have an interesting article to share with you about chemo, hair loss & something called the Penguin Cap.  My sister, Teresa, found it & sent it to me.  But I want that to go under its own header – to make it easier for women to find.  I'll post that by the weekend. 

I hope you're having as happy a Christmas as I am this year.  Boy, what a difference a year makes!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Almost across the finish line!

Two weeks ago, Dr. Nakajima looked at the scans of my mastectomy site, including all the lymph nodes surrounding it.  He pronounced me cancer free.

Then, on Tuesday, I went to St. Luke's Regional Breast Center & had a mammogram on ol' lefty – my surviving breast.  They were careful to look at the lymph nodes on that side as well.  The doctor came in & told me to get dressed – there was no sign of cancer there!  I don't think he'd ever seen a 50 year old broad jump up & hug him that quickly.  I'm squirrely like that.

I have to re-iterate that there's NO OTHER place on God's green Earth that has a better mammogram team.  I'm so mad at myself for not getting the name of the sweet lady who actually did the mammogram this time around.  I know I probably saw her name tag, but I was super nervous.  She was awesome & we shared a laugh.  Let's just say we want to look pregnant - giggle. 

I got to meet "the hunk" of the Breast Center – the guy who read my results.  Honestly, though, he could have had a hump, a lisp, a peg leg & a parrot atop his shoulder, but I didn't notice a thing after he pronounced me cancer free.  Sorry, hunk dude.   

The fabulous Sue Folk came by to see me, which was great, since I'd made her a necklace.  She was so cute, she put it on even though she already had a necklace.  I gave her a draft of the first few pages of my book.  I have a feeling I might not hear the end of that next time I go!  She already teased me about not understanding "Onstar".

Then, there was Dr. Evil, Laurie Sebastiano; she's actually on St. Luke's billboards cause she's so pretty.  Well, that & she's really good at her job!  We just tease her about being evil; trust me, she's not.  She's a sweetheart that makes you feel at home.  She comes in with her music, & dances around.  It's really neat to see a doctor that doesn't have an air of superiority about them.  And she's the most compassionate woman you'll ever find – with children that are BEAUTIFUL!  Thanks for stopping by to see me, Laurie.

Tonya Christman, the Queen of ultra sound, also came by to say hi.  She's a doll baby, & I was touched that she took the time.  I also got to see baby pictures, & here I'm also kicking myself in the rear.  I believe it was Melanie's baby.  I'm thinking it wasn't Kristen.  Ladies, please forgive me for my memory gap.  I wanted to thank you, though.  Please don't kill me when I see you in 6 months!

I still have a PET scan to schedule, but I'm not exactly sure of when it's supposed to happen.  I'll ask Dr. Nakajima when I see him in December.  But for now, my prognosis is excellent. 

Tomorrow's my birthday & I'll turn 49.  Tonight my baby, Elyse, threw her arms around me & cried.  She was so relieved that I'm going to have not only this birthday, but many, many more.  She gets to, in her words, "keep my mommy".  And for the first time since my 30's, I'm going to celebrate my birthday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm turning into a Chia Pet!

Before I go into the title of this entry, I need to show you another prayer shawl that was knitted for me by Mary Seko (& modeled by my daughter, Elyse):
It's so wonderful that I've had two of them made for me! 

I told Mary that I've been making necklaces for the women at radiation, & that I prayed over the ones I've been giving to patients.  Here's a picture of some of them:
Anyway, Mary wants me to find names of other patients, so she can knit prayer shawls for them as well.  Between Mary's shawls & my necklaces, there's going to be some decked out cancer patients.  And that, my friends, isn't a bad thing at all.   And Mary, I'm looking forward to going out to git you anothern'!

Also, want to apologize for not updating until now.  Radiation really took a toll on me.  By the second half of the 33 treatments, I was about as exciting as a snail taking a nap.  And very, very tired.  I know I have to see my booby daddy, Dr. Morrissey, but I just couldn't get myself to two doctor appointments in one day.  I was barely making the one!  So, if you're reading this Morrissey, I'll be seeing you soon (& aren't you thrilled? she asks with obvious sarcasm)!

And, I'm DONE with radiation & my new oncologist, Dr. Nakajima, has pronounced me cancer free!  Woo Hoo!   I've never heard two better words in my life.  I'll post a photo of him & his amazing nurse practitioner, Sue, in another post.

Another exciting thing is that I picked up another free lance gig.  I sent in the story I wrote about Michele (Ethel) & I on the computer, trying to figure out the care calendar.  I posted it earlier in the blog, but in case you didn't see it, here's the link:

Confessions of a Techno Dolt (my editor changed the name)

Got me my check & I'm fixin' to send in another story.  As soon as I stop hibernating.

So, now you're up to date on the medical side of my journey.  Now, here's the reason for the title of this entry - my Lucy Rant!  And if reading about my silliness puts a smile on your face, then I'll keep sharing!  Cause the Good Lord knows I've got a million of them.


Yup, it's true – I'm a Chia Pet.  My hair is growing in faster than a storm in Kansas.  The problem is, it's growing in places that I never had hair before.  Like the hollow of my cheeks – what's up with that?  Fortunately, after using Nair, it hasn't come back in, so there's that.  Well, at least for now.

My eyebrows grew in, but they came in really thick.  If Sesame Street needs a human to play Ernie's good friend, Bert, I could probably fill in.  However, armed with a sturdy pair of tweezers, I've been able to slash through the jungle.  I admit, though, I have to wait about 20 minutes before applying my spackle (makeup), since my eyelids are bright red & swollen after I've thinned the herd.

My eyelashes are almost back to normal – but you knew that from my other Lucy rant about taking pictures of them.  I know a lot of you think I must make up half of the stuff I tell you about.  The sad thing is, I don't.  I'm just dumb enough to tell the world about it.

My hair is coming in thick & dark, but with grey in it!  I never had grey hair until now, but, that's what hair colour is for.  I've already bought a box, which I plan to unleash upon my unsuspecting head as soon as I have enough hair to go without a wig.  And I'm looking forward to sporting my Lucy hat that Dorothy (Brandes, Smiley's Treasures) sent to me.  You just know I'm posting that picture!

That being said, my whole hairline has changed – no kidding.  I used to have a high forehead, which I attributed to my Native American heritage.  It was about the only thing that resembled that part of our lineage.  My sister, Jill, looks like she just walked off a reservation when she's tan.  I envy her that.  I got the pasty white Anglo look – I'm so white, I glow in the dark.  Sigh.

Anyway, it looks like it's going to be thicker, which is good.  But it's really black.  I've always been a brunette, but there were different colours going on.  I think hair stylists call them "highlights" & "lowlights".  What's growing in is completely dark, all one colour, & not shiny even a little bit.  Oh, & I've got a bit of a widow's peak going on.  Swell, I'm going to look like Eddy Munster with my black hair, widow's peak & pasty white skin.  Wonder how ol' Eddy turned out? 

But on the bright side, it's growing back!  And another high note is that I'm no longer being poisoned & radiated.  Time to heal for a bit, to prepare for my addaboobtome.  And that's something I'm really looking forward to.

So, all in all, it's good to be a chia pet.  Finally.

I'm going to continue to post updates as they happen.  For the next few weeks, though, I'm going to concentrate on finishing my book, as well as submitting more often to the places I contribute.  I'd pretty much taken the year off as I dealt with this.  Plus, I really didn't have a creative bone in my body for the last year. 

Check back, though, as I chronicle my progress, my meeting with my booby daddy, & then the whole reconstruction process.  You can also keep up with my antics on my blog, simply titled The Brunette Lucy.  No versus cancer or sucking involved!  I post previously published articles over there, & if the publication I write for has an online link, I'll include it.  I haven't posted to it in a while, but that's where I'm going to put my "normal" Lucy stories in the future.  Well, unless they pertain to breast cancer.  

Thanks for your emails, guest book entries, "follows" on Twitter & friends on Facebook.  You have no idea how much your kind words of encouragement have meant to me as I've dealt with this. 
God bless you all.  And, God bless America.  

And never, ever forget.

Have you forgotten?  I haven't.  Here's Darryl Worley's anthem that reminds us what we're fighting for.
Another song that Darryl wrote describes the reason for my wait to go through reconstruction.  It's called, "Second Wind".  No other song could say it better.  Thanks, buddy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mascara's magic wand

(Lucy rant at the end)

I've ditched the fake eyelashes!!  My eyelashes have come in – they're not long, but they're enough for me to reach for mascara.  Now when I see mascara commercials, I actually pay attention (& don't seethe with envy).  Never in my life did I think that putting it on would be such a highlight of my day.  But it is.  It's a milestone in my journey. 

Bonus, my eyebrows are fully grown in.  In fact, I actually had to tweeze them.  I TWEEZED them, people!  Again, something I never thought I would miss.  Yet, somehow, its part of being a woman, no matter how annoying.  When you've lost them, their return is met with unmitigated glee.  

When my port was taken out, I had to go into surgery with no makeup on.  Normally, that's OK.  Well, if I'm being honest, I really, really like my spackle.  Um, I mean, makeup.  But going out in public with no hair, no eyelashes or eyebrows isn't a pretty sight when you're running head long into 50 years old!  I put on dark, oversized sunglasses, so as not to scare the children.  You can get sued for less these days.

I'm almost done with radiation.  My last day will be September 7th or 8th.  I'm not exactly sure, since I messed up that one time, & may have a "do over".  Which will suck.  Really, really bad.

On the bright side, though, I'm over half way done.  And THAT, happy campers, is worthy of a Woo Hoo!

Embracing my inner Lucy:

Normally, my daughter, Elyse (who's opening her very own photography studio) takes pictures for me.  Well, she's at play practice tonight.  I'd wanted to take pictures of my eyes close up, so you could see my tiny little eyelashes.  Here's what happened:

I took the camera into the bathroom, because the shower curtain is white.  Figured it would be a good background, all nice & neutral.  I managed to turn the thing on, & pointed it at me.  The first shots were of the top of my head.  Great.  But at least I'd managed to press the right button, & actually took a few photos.  Yay, a ray of hope!

Next, I move the camera to what I think is going to be a shot of my face.  I hit the button, & instead of taking a picture, I turned the camera off.  I did that a couple of times.  In my defense, why do they have THREE buttons on the top of the camera?  Seriously, it's confusing.  I'd prematurely celebrated.

The only reason I knew that I'd been turning it on & off was the focus thingy kept going in & out.  And it only took me three times to realize why.  I thought it was auto focus. 

OK, so I think I've done all the Lucy things I could do, right?  Ha!  In order to get my eyes, I had to have the camera pretty close up.  It has a flash button.  After a couple of flashes, I was pretty much temporarily blind.  I couldn't figure out how to turn the flash off, so I had to wait for a few moments to see before I could walk out of the bathroom.  With my luck, I'd trip over the dog & go flying down the stairs.  Plus, I didn't want the other two kidlets laughing at me.

I pulled out the memory card to see what Little Miss Annie Leibovitz had done.  Unfortunately, I hadn't replaced the memory card from the last time I was downloading photos.  It was still in the computer.  I needed to find the cord thing to plug my camera into my computer.  

When I got done laughing at the odds of me finding it, I realized that it didn't matter.  The camera said, "memory full".  I have NO clue if I took a picture of my eyes, the walls, the shower curtain or the top of my head.  So there you have it, the reason I can't show you my tiny eyelashes. 

And now I need to go call the eye doctor.  I'm still seeing white flashes & my peripheral vision is gone.  Sigh.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Radiation Stories

I've been threatening to tell you about radiation, but now I'm going to do it!  First, let me say, it's a PILL!  Going up & back 5 days a week gets old by Wednesday.  Thursday, you're annoyed.  Friday, well, you just really, really look forward to Friday.

They have the check in process automated, so you don't have to stand around & wait to check in.  That's really cool.  Then, you go into 'THE ROOM".  There's a bed in the middle of it, & a massive machine that looks like this:
The girls, or guys (but in my case it's always girls), get you on the slab.  Oops, I mean, table.  You're raised up & then they begin to call out a series of numbers that only make sense to them.  They move you about, getting you lined up, while you lay there looking up at the big "eye".  Well, that's what I call it.  As you can see in the picture, it's a large round something or another & a series of plates appear inside it.  They slide around, disappear, rotate & slide again.  It's kind of hard to explain.

They position you, & you have to be totally still as they leave the room & you're left there to watch as this massive machine rotates, arms come out & things come down with red beams that I can only think are doing more measuring.  Sorry, I don't know the techno speak.  Of course, as soon as I'm told I have to be still, my nose itches, a muscle cramps, my nose starts running or one of my wig hairs gets in my eye.  Yup, sounds about right for me.

Last week, my head was in the headrest all wonky.  I laid there with this plastic bar jabbing into the side of my neck, & it was killing me.  So, when the girls came in to reposition me, I moved.  A lot.  And that's how I found out that if you move a lot, you can't continue treatment.  They had to stop since the measurements were now all wrong.  I added another trip up to complete my series of treatments.  I tell you what, though, I've turned into a statue since then.  A big itchy, twitchy statue!

Back to the procedure, though.  After they position you, mark you, measure, & whatever else they do, they leave the room.  The big steel doors close & you're left alone in the room with the machine & the roving eye. The time drags while you're in there.  You lay there looking up at a drab ceiling, if you open your eyes.  You wait until you hear the loud buzzing that can last up to 10 – 15 seconds, & the sound reverberates through the room.  And you can do nothing but lay there exposed, waiting until the girls come in & re-position you.  It's pretty creepy.

BUT, that feeling only lasts for a little while.  Soon, it becomes rote & you get over that lonely feeling.  Especially when you realize that the people that are lining you up, being ever so careful not to do any further damage to you, are taking care of you.  They have your best interests at heart, & this behemoth of a machine exists only to prevent cancer from spreading.

Good news, though, I have no radiation burns at all, but I'm a little red.  I know I still have time left, but a lot of women have all kinds of skin problems at this stage of the game.  I had bought all kinds of lotions & potions to slap on, to protect my skin.

Then, I spotted my big ol' aloe vera plant sitting there, minding its own business.  I had one of those Homer Simpson moments – "Doh"!  Why didn't I think of it earlier?   Still, Maya (from radiation) gave me samples of something called Aquafor.  I'll include that in my constant regimen, but aloe is going to continue to be what I reach for the most.

There's even MORE good news, though, happy campers!  I saw Dr. Cardiges on Thursday, & all the x-rays are CANCER FREE!!  There's nothing in my heart, lungs or bones.  I only have 2 ½ weeks left for radiation, then I'm done with that chapter.  I'll have to take something called "Tamoxifen" for the next 5 years, but, ooh, how awful is taking a pill once a day? 

I'll write more soon; I've been working on a few different projects.  Soon, the Brunette Lucy will be roaming the streets, unbridled by daily doctor visits.  Don't worry; I'll let you know when that day comes.  You can decide if you want to be out in my area of the world with me unleashed upon it!  Giggle.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yup, I'm Lucy

Good news!  Radiation isn't sucking too bad anymore.  Gotta tell you, it's a huge relief.  It's been much more comfortable than the first two times I went.  It probably has to do with a change of attitude – MY attitude.  I decided that this is only part of my day, not the whole day.  It still takes 2 hours in total, but, that's just two hours out of 24.  It's still a pill to have to calculate that into your daily life, but, what are you going to do?  

Bonus, there's a Mexican restaurant a block away that's awesome & a fruit & veggie stand on the way home.  I love that about summer; that & my deck that's exploding with flowers, bushes & vines.  The heat – I could do without.

I've decided to get back to writing.  I have the job at The Examiner (I've got 3-4 articles I'm working on), & I picked up free lance work with a Philadelphia area magazine.  Plus, I've stalled finishing my book long enough.  I need to be able to provide more than just quips to agents.  I have to string the whole book together & until I do, I'm going to put dealing with agents on the back burner.  Got enough going on right now! 

I've GOT to tell you about what happened when I got home the other day.  I'd worn a peasant top & a similar, very full, skirt.  It was in the middle of a (what's beginning to feel like an endless series of) heat wave of almost 100 degree days.  I was telling Matt & Gretchen about my day & while doing so, hiked my skirt up.  Since I'm a fidget, I was swaying side to side a bit.  They both started laughing & through the laughter, managed to tell me that I'd (yet again) reminded them of my name sake:
Yup, I came about the moniker "Brunette Lucy" honestly.  In fact, I was telling Michele about something I'd done the other day when she said that my life should come with a laugh track.  

Yesterday, Aubrie brought a package up for me.  It wasn't big enough to be what I was expecting, so I was baffled.  Then I saw the return address, Dorothy Brandes.  She's the lady who sent me a mastectomy bra for free.  You can find the link to her eBay store to the right of this.  She doesn't sell just mastectomy products, though.  She has all kinds of lingerie, so give her a look-see.  Her eBay store is called "Smiley's Treasures".

I opened the package to find that she'd sent me an "I Love Lucy" hat.  Here's the picture:
 Is anyone noticing an (almost) entire entry devoted solely to Lucy here?  Yikes!

She wrote a note in which she explained that she'd bought the hat years ago at a yard sale.  She didn't know why she did, though, as she never wore it.  For unknown reasons to her at the time, she just wanted that hat.  She shared that now she knows why – it was meant for me.  Isn't that the coolest thing ever??  It's amazing how things like that happen.  Thank you SO much, Dorothy!

On a sad note, though, her good friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  She underwent a double mastectomy recently.  I'm so sad for her, since she's at the beginning of her journey.  I hope that, like me, she'll be surrounded by wonderful family, friends, doctors & nurses.  In my book, if Dorothy's her friend, then she's well taken care of.

I'll tell you all about what happens at radiation in the next day or two.  I'm looking at Google images to show you what the machine looks like. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm a blessed Lucy

I'll write about what happens in radiation next.  First, though, I felt that this entry needed to be made.

Thank you so much to those of you who've been following my journey.  I've received so many comments on my blog, Facebook messages & supportive emails, that I honestly don't know how to say thank you.  Some of you have confided in me, shared your experiences with me & have been my cheerleaders – even though you may not have even met me.  And I count myself as one of the most fortunate women in the world because of it.

I was thinking about this as my daughter, Elyse, was driving me to & from my radiation appointment.  I still struggle with neuropathy, & I occasionally take pain medicine for it.  Although, if I'm being honest, I can't WAIT to not have to take it.  I really, really don't get what people are talking about when they say they feel "high".  Really?  High?  Holy cows, it just tires my old butt out.  If I take one of those things, I'd better be near a bed & soon.  Cause it just makes me sleepy (& from what you've been telling me, you feel the same way.  What's up with that?).  But I digress.

Both of my babies have been shuttling me to most of my appointments.  They feel like they're helping – and they are.  They don't feel as helpless when they're doing something; even if it's driving me around from appointment to appointment.  Good Lord, I've been blessed with my family.

I've been fortunate in that I work from my home.  Not everyone has that luxury.  When I've been tired, I slept in.  When I was sick, I was in my own bathroom or bed.  When my hair, lashes & eyebrows fell out, it was within the privacy of my home.  When I couldn't make dinner, precious friends & family brought it to me.  Throughout all of this, I was able to deal with it safely ensconced in my house.  Most women (& men) aren't so lucky.

YOU, strong ladies, are the reason I write this entry.

Your stories have been imprinted on my heart, & I'll never forget that you felt comfortable enough to share them with me.  I can't fathom having to go through cancer, whether it be breast, colon, or any other kind, & have to go to work.  With all the crap that's cancer, you've managed to get up every morning & attend to all that you have on your plate.  Your stories have both inspired & humbled me. 

Thank you for sharing your struggles, your triumphs, & most importantly, your spirit with me.  I can't believe I've been given such a tremendous gift as to hear your stories.  I hope that sharing them with me has helped you, if only in the teeniest way.  I'm here if you need to vent, cry, brag, or share your frustrations with.  And I'll feel lucky to hear them.

To all the strong women out there, I salute you.  Your courage has been an inspiration to me.  Thank you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is this dumb or what?

I have my first two radiation treatments under my belt!  I have to say, it doesn't take that much time when I'm there.  It's the getting there that's a pain in the rear!  I think I told you that it's about 25 minutes each way.  Plus, my appointments are at 2:45 pm, so its rush hour when I'm done & going home.  

I asked about burning, & the nurse said that it depends on your skin.  BUT, there was a lady there Friday who was having her very last session.  She'd had a double mastectomy, & 8 more sessions than I'll have.  Either which way, she was pretty burned, but not in that weird way I showed on the blog earlier.  She said it was like a sun burn.  PLUS, they were expanding her tissue for her implants - yikes.  So, like Michele said, after all I've been through, a sun burn is the least of my problems.  I can sooo do this!  Possibly without even whining; but here's the juxtaposition. 

I know this sounds dumb, but, I've never felt like I'm a cancer patient more so than now.  I mean, really?  I've been through surgery that removed my breast, then several surgeries from the infection that resulted.  When that was done, I underwent chemo, & saw my hair, eyebrows & eyelashes fall out.  I hate to have my husband see me like this.  Yet this – THIS, is freaking me out.  What's up with that?  I may get a sun burn.  Holy cow, call the news & stop the presses; Lucy may get a sun burn.  Wow.

It's especially bizarre because my hair is growing back, albeit oddly.  The back of my head is a blaze of brunette fuzz.  The sides are coming in & the top is fuzzy as well.  My eyebrows & eyelashes are growing in at lightning fast speeds.  I haven't been more excited about the prospect of wielding a mascara wand in my life! 

I never thought I'd miss worrying about the peach fuzz that grows on the sides of my face, because man, that used to piss me off.  I went after it like a Jedi Knight hunting Darth Vader (call me Luke).  I see hair removal commercials now & I wish I had that problem.  But it's coming back!  So why this worrying over something completely painless, that will be over in just 6 short weeks?    

I was also freaked out about my port removal.  It's all so insane, it makes me wonder if I've lost all reason.  Matt made me laugh in pre-op, but it was just a moment.  I don't think I told you this part about the port removal.

Matt & I were speaking about the day I had my mastectomy while we were waiting for my port surgery.  We were joking about the anesthesiologist's assistant that kept trying to start an IV.  She stabbed me over & over again, resulting in a major bruise (I posted the photo to this blog).  

It was as if it was on cue from a macabre play that my nurse came over to start my IV for port removal surgery; right when we had finished reminiscing about it.  She tried twice, but couldn't get it going.  She'd get the needle in, push it further (I honestly thought she was wiggling it around in there), making me see stars.  Thankfully, she wasn't going to torture me any more, & called in help.  Another nurse started it without incident.  Still, I have two good sized bruises to this day from where the other one tried.

Anyway, I'll write more later & tell you about what the radiation procedure itself is like.  I just have to put my big girl panties on & suck it up.  I can see the finish line, but my feet feel like they're mired in quicksand.  Yup, it's pretty dumb.  But, I promised to tell you the truth, & this is it.

On the bright side, after radiation, we go on vacation to Maryland.  I'm planning on cultivating a taste for crab, since that's what Maryland's known for.  It takes one crab to know one!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I've been deported!!

Yup, I had surgery yesterday to take out my port, making me officially de"port"ed.  Get it?  The next time I have surgery won't be until well after the New Year – need a break!  But, I'll be excited for this one, my "addaboobtome" (add a boob to me).  I can't take credit for these terms, though.  Matt had a LOT of time on his hands yesterday & came up with them.  At least we had a laugh.  On second thought, I wonder if the other people in the pre-op area thought we were nuts.  I mean, we were laughing before I was being wheeled into surgery.  Hey, we're Lucy & Ricky – it's expected (that's my story & I'm stickin' to it).

OK, folks, here's the update.

Monday I went for the dry run at the radiologist's (Dr. Cardiges) office.  Honestly, the nurses there are wonderful too.  Anyway, they used the time to program the computer specifically for me.  This will decrease the amount of time I'm there, since it'll all be automatic.  They'll position me correctly, turn the machine on & let it do its work.  At least, that what I took away from the experience.  I'll keep you posted on that.

If I'm being honest, though, I'm nervous about radiation burns.  I see Dr. Cardiges next Wednesday & I think I should raise that concern to him.  I don't know why I didn't think of it when I met him.  ~heavy sigh~  Or, duh, I could ask the nurses tomorrow.  

Yesterday, Dr. Quiros removed my chemo port – WOO HOO!  It was quick, & I didn't have general anesthesia.  They used something called "twilight sleep" but  I call it plain old sleep.  They pushed some drugs into my IV, & that was all she wrote for ol' Lucy.  As usual, Dr. Quiros was terrific; such a cutie.  I looked like death warmed over, though, as I hadn't had a good night's sleep for three days.  My eyes were slits & I was pale as a ghost. 

Worse, I couldn't wear makeup, which is against my personal religion.  "Thou shalt not leave thy house without proper spackling & colour application".  Well, it's not one of those big time commandments, but, you get the point.  It sucked.

For some reason, I was waaayyyy nervous for the surgery (this entry should be called the nervous post).  I have no clue why.  I mean, I had a mastectomy, for heaven's sake.  You'd have thought that this would have been a walk in the park.  I was all whiney & stuff, which isn't normal for me.  Well, OK, maybe whining, but I usually reserve that for when I don't get my way. Since that doesn't happen a lot (giggle), I usually don't whine.  Much.

Okey doke, tomorrow starts my 6 weeks of radiation therapy.  Then, I'm done - & hopefully, cancer free.  And cancer can suck it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But

I started this blog to tell you the truth about what happens when you have breast cancer.  I assure you, I've been telling it.  However, I also wanted to make those of you who don't have it, as well as ladies who do, smile – if at all possible.  I've been keeping as positive an attitude as humanly possible.  Still, in my zeal to be upbeat, I haven't been posting as much as I should.  My husband, Matt, & my sister, Jill, pointed that out to me.

Part of not posting has had to do with the funk I've been in.  I've had some difficulty dealing with pain & the changes in my body.  It's all lobbed at you like a bomb & feels as if your life has exploded; because it has.  I've slept a great deal, & for the first week since this all began, I haven't left the house all week.  I haven't had any doctor visits, but that all changes next week (details later).  Still, I usually love to get out.  When Elyse asked if I'd like to go shopping with her, she was surprised when I didn't.  I was surprised I didn't have the energy or the desire to go spend money, which (as Matt can testify to) I do with great aplomb.

So I'm going to post more often, & concentrate on telling you the truth; even when I can't be clever doing it.  Don't think, though, that I'm not going to try to be upbeat – I don't know any other way to deal with this.  Still, even the Brunette Lucy can be depressed.  It's OK.  We just have to pick ourselves up & go on.  I'll be more forthcoming with what's going on from now on, starting now.

I was ready to lose my hair, & I thought I was ready to lose my eyebrows & lashes.  When all three happened, though, it's a bit of a different story.  Even though I have wigs, fake eyelashes & false eyebrows, going to the trouble of putting them on when you're home is a bit daunting, as it's time consuming.  Still, you want to look as normal as possible for your family. 

Problem is, we've been having major heat waves this year & wigs are warm!  So, I decided to wear scarves, which, too, can be warm.  I decided to get over not having my head covered – kind of. 

Eyelashes & eyebrows are a different story.  However, makeup is terrific.  Thankfully, with over 40 years of experience with it, I can use it to minimize the lack of them.  But waking up in the morning with no hair on your head or face is challenging to one's self esteem.  My eyelashes have just started coming in, but not many.  I guess I'll be a slave to fake ones for a while yet.  The thing is, you'd think I'd be an expert at putting them on.  Yet, the other day I got glue in my eye & temporarily glued it shut.  Heavy sigh.  

Off on a bit of a sidetrack, I have surgery Tuesday to remove the chemo port (woo hoo!).  But before you go in, they always tell you not to wear any makeup.  What's up with that?  I mean, unless they're operating on your face, I don't see the point.  The anesthesia mask they put on you is disposable, so even if you get makeup on it, it gets tossed.  I've never cared that much before, but without eyelashes & eyebrows, no way.  I don't want to scare children & hospital personnel!  They're going to have to deal with it.  

OK, I'm done with my grouching.

Tomorrow, I go to the radiation oncologist for some type of scan.  Tuesday, off to surgery.  Since you (more importantly, Dr. Quiros) never know what's going to happen with me (me plus surgery equals surprise), I didn't plan anything for Wednesday.  Thursday, I'm off to the races with radiation therapy.   I have to go Monday through Friday for 6 weeks straight.  Ugh.   Of course, the closest place I can go is 25 minutes away.  So, it should take about 2 hours out of each day.

On the bright side, my hair is growing in.  I'd heard stories about it growing back a whole different colour, so I was glad to see it's still dark.  Can't have a Brunette Lucy if my hair is blonde!  It's weird, though, because there's a lot of white fuzz everywhere mixed in with the dark hair.  It's normal, though – Matt looked it up.

That's it for now, happy campers.  I'll be writing more often, I promise!  And don't forget, if you need someone to "talk" to, you have my email.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Again, I apologize for not keeping you up to date.  It seems that the only thing I'm good for these days is sleeping!  The doctors all say that my body is healing, so, I'm gonna run with that.

I met with Dr. Quiros Thursday & we're going to take the port out.  Let's see, how shall I put this . . . . . oh, wait, I know. 


I'm so excited.  Getting this dumb thing out marks the end of my first phase of cancer removal.  I'm fixin' to embark on the next – radiation.

First, I think I should share something with you.  If you've been reading this for a while, you know that so far, nothing has gone to plan with me.  After the mastectomy, I got a raging infection which ate the tissue expander (they put them in to stretch your skin to make reconstruction easier).  Then, when Dr. Quiros went to put the port in, he had to put it in a different spot.  What should have been a one hour procedure turned into four.

When discussing taking the port out with Dr. Quiros, he told me that he often does the procedure right there in his office.  With ME, however, he wants to do it in the hospital.  He seemed embarrassed, as he said,

"With you, however, I'd rather do it at the hospital.  I mean, you know, well, um, gee, cause, well, you know . . . .  you're you!" 

I had to put him out of his misery & told him it was ok; I understood & I agreed with him.  He seemed sooo RELIEVED when I did.  I guess I could have let him keep going, but, I like him.

Yesterday, I met with Dr. Nick Cardiges (again), my radiation oncologist.  I'm pretty sure I told you before that he's a good lookin' guy, right?  I didn't take his picture, because I had a bunch of stuff going on.

I was in the x-ray room, & I had THE BEST nurse!  Man, I could just kick myself in the rear for forgetting her name (I'll get it the next time as well & maybe her picture).  Honestly, I was trying to keep track of all the stuff she was having me do.  The biggest one was to LIE STILL!  Yikes!  Me?  Be still?  Holy cows, that was hard to do.

I was going there to get tattooed.   Basically, they use tiny tattoos to mark the area to be radiated.  Rather than try to explain in my air headed, Lucy way, I looked up Dr. Jay Harris, who 'splained it way better than I can:

Jay Harris, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Question: What are tattoos used in radiation treatment planning and are they permanent?
Dr. Jay Harris answers the question: Why Use Tattoos in Radiation Treatment?
Answer: Most institutions do tattoos. And I know the term conjures up large roses, or other images. But in fact, the tattoos that are used are pinpoint marks, which mark the edges of the field. In radiation therapy, one of the most important aspects of the treatment is precision. And, the use of tattoos is an important aid in helping to make sure that your treatments are going to be done precisely, the same way each day.
The tattoos also can be important in your future care, in that sometimes situations arise, and it is important to know with precision where you had previously received radiation since we're not able to give radiation to the same area, except in very special circumstances. So this information can be very important to your health in the future. We recommend that tattoos be placed -- typically five of them -- these dots are placed, and that patients keep them on. There are now plastic surgical approaches which can remove these. And, currently, for the reasons that I've given, we advise patients not to do this. And for the most part, given how small these marks are, patients are convinced that this is in their best interest, to keep them.

So, there you go.  What happened to me yesterday & why.  Honestly, it was NOOOOO big deal!  If you've ever had your skin pricked with a needle, that's pretty much what it feels like.  Not a big deal.

And, when Dr. Morrissey tattoos colour for a nipple on my new, majestically large boob, I can have him put an arrow on it, saying something like, "you are here".  Maybe with an X to mark the spot if I'm particularly silly that day. 

OK, here's what's upcoming:

Today, met with family doctor, Dr. Ruth (yes, that's his REAL name) to keep him posted.

Monday, July 19th:  More x-rays & stuff @ Dr. Cardiges;

Tuesday, July 20th:  PORT COMES OUT @ hospital;

Wednesday, July 21st:  Day off in case something happens & I end up staying the night at the hospital – you know, the whole Lucy thing; and

Thursday, July 22nd:  Off to the races!  Going to have 6 weeks of radiation.  Hopefully, I'll tolerate it well, & won't burn.  I'll keep you posted.

OK, happy campers, that's all I have – for now.  I promise, you'll see another post before the 19th.  Until then, I'm off to take another nap – sigh.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Boy, sometimes I can take FOREVER to write to y’all!  As you know, though, I got my last shot of Neulasta.  That translates to me being very sick & tired.  Lots of naps.  I’m getting better, though, & celebrating the fact that it was my LAST one!!  Woo Hoo!

Here’s what’s happened since I wrote last.

On Tuesday, the 15th, I met with my oncological surgeon, Dr. Quiros.  For those of you who haven’t seen him yet, here he is:

Isn’t he adorable??  And very, very sweet.  Bonus, according to the surgical nurses at St. Luke’s, both he & Dr. Morrissey (my booby daddy) are two of the best surgeons there. 

Hey, I have to do SOMETHING while waiting to be operated on.  So I talk to all the nurses & other patients in the pre-op room.  As IF you didn’t know or expect that already!  They spill like a glass of milk on a ship in the middle of a hurricane.

Anyway, he’s very pleased that I’m done with chemo.  However, he couldn’t take out the stupid chemo port until after he got the ok from Capt. Compassion.  Boogers. 

Guess what – on occasion & under the right circumstances, Dr. Quiros can take the port out in his very own office.  After he shared that little tid bit of information, though, he kind of grinned & said,

“YOU, however, I’ll do in the hospital”.

He explained that because nothing has ever gone according to plan when it comes to operating on me, he'd rather both he & I be safe.  When he originally installed the port, it was supposed to be a quick operation.  Instead, it took hours & I spent the night at the hospital, since he couldn’t place it where he originally planned.  He spoke to Matt after surgery & laughed; he didn’t know why it would surprise him that things didn’t go to plan.  “After all”, he said, “its Tamara.  Or, should I say, Lucy”.

Wednesday, I saw Dr. Morrissey, my booby daddy.  He’s just keeping tabs on me because he’s never had a patient like me.  He says he means that in the nicest way, but, still.  It’s kinda unnerving when your surgeon wants to keep an eye on you because you make him nervous – just being you.  Sigh.

I asked him about the TRAM flap, which is a way of reconstructing my breast.  He told me that he really has no idea what he's going to do.  It all depends upon my skin after the radiation.  Some folk's skin kind of shrivels up.  Here're two photos of "after" radiation.  The first one is kind of gross, so, you're warned:

Here's another example.  However, as you can see, after one month, this lady's breast is just about the same.  She didn't have a mastectomy, but you still get the idea of her skin before & after.
 So there you can see the reason Dr. Morrissey has no idea how my skin is going to respond.  He says most women get back to pretty much normal, but the amount of time it takes for one may not be the same for the other.  We've decided to wait until after Christmas. 

I mean, think about all the holidays & vacations me & this stupid breast cancer have managed to screw up.  And not for me, but my family.  My babies have put up with so much, & you'd never know it.  They act like it's nothing.  Folks, I'm one of the luckiest mommy's on the planet.  My kids have gone out of their way to make me feel that this is nothing; just a blurb.

Still, I had the mastectomy a few days before Thanksgiving.  Christmas Eve, I got a raging fever (104.1 & rising steadily) & my incision was leaking buckets.  Christmas Day I wasn't even conscious.  The day after Christmas I was in the hospital being operated on due to a major staph infection.  The staph infection ate the tissue expander, which resulted in it being taken out. Morrissey said he'd never seen anything like it.  Of course not, I'm Lucy (which he said, too).  Trust me, folks, he's done a lot of surgeries, & for him to say that, he really meant it.  He explained that it was kind of like picking toothpicks out of a haystack, it was so badly damaged. 

There was another surgery due to the staph infection, & a lengthy hospital visit sometime after Christmas.  Dr. Morrissey wanted to keep the wound open & packed, plus he wanted me on IV antibiotics.  After 5 days in the hospital, he allowed me to go home, but only if I had a visiting nurse every day to clean out the wound.

Next, I had to have surgery to close the incision.  Of course, this was during our area's biggest snow storm ever – aaagggghhhh!  You can read about that little episode in "Surgery in a Snowstorm"

Then, I started chemo, followed by my darling (she says sarcastically) shot of Neulasta.  There was no way I could go on vacation to the shore with the rest of my family. 

I've completed chemo (woo hoo), but am about to begin radiation.  With my luck, something will happen, & plans to go up to the Bushkill house will swirl the drain & finally complete the process by going straight down it.

Now, on the bright side, Matt found this really cool house in Maryland.  It's near the beach, the Harbour, Washington DC, & a million other cool places for us to visit.  Here's a picture:

We're hoping to go there in October (unless something else goes horribly, Lucily wrong), which will be the anniversary after receiving my diagnosis.  Rather than having October always be a suck month in the minds of our children forever, we figured going on vacation & "doing it up" will change the stigma of October.  Keep your fingers crossed, or if you don't mind, would you say a prayer that it all works out for us to go?

I'm going continue being patient, & wait until after Christmas & New Year's to even begin to schedule reconstruction.  I know, it boggles the mind that I could possibly possess a thimble's worth of patience. 

The thing is, I only want to have reconstruction done once.  And I want it done spectacularly.  Plus, not having to have a tissue expander gives me the freedom to pick & choose the size of boobies I'll get, without the discomfort of expanding my skin.  Do I want Dolly Parton, watermelon sized (each) boobs, or do I want a pair of "D"'s?

See, I'll have time to make those decisions.  Of course, I plan to take Michele (Ethel) with me to lingerie shops.  Oops, I forgot to tell her about it.  Heads up, Michele!  We'll come armed with bushels of toilet paper, & I'm going to try on bras in all sizes.  Maybe Morrissey will give me some silicone fakies to take instead of the toilet paper.  You know what?  I'm pretty sure he has them.  So, I'll take them instead.  My friend, Shellie, told me not to go too big.  She has that problem & doesn't want me to go nuts.  Shellie, I'll try to keep your words of wisdom in my Lucy brain – honest!  Just remember whose brain we're talking about here!!!!

'Nuther Update!

Dr. Quiros got the ok from Capt. Compassion to take out my chemo port.  I meet with him this Tuesday, the 29th.  We'll set up time for surgery, & then at the beginning of July, I'll get myself mapped for radiation.

All in all, I'm pretty darned happy.  The doctors don't think that the cancer has spread.  Dr. Quiros wants me to have the remaining left breast mammogramed – a lot.  I have one scheduled for September 10th.  I'll be going to St. Luke's Regional Breast Health Center in Center Valley.

Bonus, I get to see (I HOPE) The best nurse in the world, Sue Folk & Dr. Evil, Laurie Sebastiano.
Trust me folks, she's so NOT evil.  She's the best darned radiologist that ever lived.  And Susan could make even the most nervous person calm.  I can't wait til I can take those two women out for lunch.  They were both there during the worst time of my life, & they did their dead level best to make me feel better.   All of the women there are the women you want in your life when you hear the devastating news.

So, now you're up to speed.  I'm hoping that I'll get the port out soon, then let's get this radiation done!!  Plus, I have to work on my book & get back to writing full time for the Allentown Examiner.

Talk to you later!!!

My guestbook